Of Angry Youth And Our Election Cycle

The common denominator for men and women of my generation, born before 1980, was that no one was above a good beating. Our parents were from the school of hard knocks. They swore by the words,  ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child”. I grew knowing my parents wrath came from a place of good intentions. The punishment was structured and one even got to fetch the cane that would be used to inflict pain and deliver a lesson. When disciplining was over, we were reminded that the world would not be so kind. That is what good parenting entailed.

The Announcement

Friday, August 11 2017

The axe forgets what the tree remembers. African proverb

The tension was palpable 3 days after voting. Media had prepped Kenyans for a big announcement. Serious discrepancies had emerged over the vote tallying and opinion was sharply divided and emotive. The kind that could trigger off a big reaction.

People who had shown up for work on that Friday reported the lack of transport and the light traffic in Nairobi. Employers and business owners with good sense had to ensure the premises were shut by 2pm. We received reports of heavy police presence in the hotspots, in our case the poor ghettos in the opposition chiefs stronghold that were primed to react in protest after the announcement.

The Interview

I got a message from Biko, late last week, “How are things?”

Kenyans have this unique ability to minimize issues. A man could be calling to deliver the tragic news of his own mother’s passing but that won’t stop him from starting the conversation with “Sema, how are things?”

I knew something was up so I asked him to cut to the chase.  Biko wanted me for an interview and it had to be the next day. Biko has been having these anxiety attacks over turning 40 and had launched into an introspective journey, talking to people who had crossed into their 40s in search of his version of the 48 ways to manage your 40s without the midlife crisis.

Who Is Next? The Criminalization of Poverty in Mathare

“Who is next” is the title of a report by Mathare Social Justice Centre ( MSJC) launched on 30th of May at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, in Nairobi. It documents over 50 cases of young men arbitrarily executed by alleged rogue police force members in Mathare. The majority were between 14 and 20 years old. It poses the loaded question, why have extrajudicial killings become accepted as normalized incidents for inner city urban youth in Kenya?

The story of Mathare’s extrajudicial executions of young men is a story repeated in Kibera, Kayole, Dandora, Eastleigh, Majengo in Mombasa and Obunga in Kisumu. It is the reality of been born into hardship and violence in a society that criminalizes youth and poverty.